June ’19 Brew Report, Pt. 1: Tribals, Tribulations

In “Stitched Together: Early Successes from Horizons,” we looked at some of the breakout cards in Magic‘s newest expansion. The month has now ended, and it’s left plenty of new developments in its wake. Today, we’ll look at the veritable explosion of tribal aggro strategies in Modern as well as a few novel takes on combo.

Tribal Trouble

Besides Goblins, Merfolk, and Humans, all of which we covered a couple weeks ago, Horizons has injected even more tribal strategies with new lifeblood.

Winding Elves, by L2AMPAGE (5-0)

Creatures (33)
Dwynen’s Elite
Elves of Deep Shadow
Elvish Archdruid
Elvish Clancaller
Elvish Mystic
Ezuri, Renegade Leader
Heritage Druid
Llanowar Elves
Nettle Sentinel
Shaman of the Pack

Sorceries (4)
Winding Way

Instants (4)
Collected Company

Lands (19)
Blooming Marsh
Forest
Gilt-Leaf Palace
Llanowar Wastes
Nurturing Peatland
Pendelhaven
Sideboard (15)
Assassin’s Trophy
Choke
Collector Ouphe
Damping Sphere
Yixlid Jailer
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Modern Horizons marked my first prerelease event since Khans of Tarkir, and I went undefeated with a mono-green deck full of 2/2s (some of them even real Bears!). Besides 4 Savage Swipe, my deck’s only noncreature spells were 3 Winding Way, and I was constantly impressed by its performance. Not enough to consider it for constructed, though, which proved the day’s biggest mistake.

Elves already plays Lead the Stampede, so it makes sense to try Way there; while the newcomer digs 20% less deep, it also costs a third less mana, and going from CMC 3 to CMC 2 is a massive leap in Modern. Lead-based builds seem alive and well regardless, but Way could catch on as lists continue to roll out.

Collected Slivers, by DEEPFRDKIRBY (5-0)

Creatures (32)
Predatory Sliver
Sinew Sliver
Sedge Sliver
Galerider Sliver
Cloudshredder Sliver
Diffusion Sliver
Manaweft Sliver
Necrotic Sliver
Striking Sliver
Gemhide Sliver
Darkheart Sliver
Dregscape Sliver
Homing Sliver

Artifacts (4)
Aether Vial

Instants (4)
Collected Company

Lands (20)
Blood Crypt
Cavern of Souls
Forest
Mutavault
Overgrown Tomb
Sliver Hive
Swamp
Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
Verdant Catacombs
Sideboard (15)
Darkheart Sliver
Damping Sphere
Dismember
Frenetic Sliver
Harmonic Sliver
Leyline of the Void
Syphon Sliver
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After months of speculation, Slivers finally has an actual result! The idea here is to max out on lord effects, then divvy up the remaining slots among other Slivers to maximize the odds of finding a combination that yields unique keyword abilities.

Ninjas, by MRRAEB (5-0)

Creatures (20)
Faerie Seer
Spellstutter Sprite
Snapcaster Mage
Ice-Fang Coatl
Ingenious Infiltrator

Instants (15)
Opt
Fatal Push
Mana Leak
Cryptic Command

Sorceries (4)
Inquisition of Kozilek

Lands (21)
Breeding Pool
Misty Rainforest
Overgrown Tomb
Polluted Delta
Prismatic Vista
Snow-Covered Forest
Snow-Covered Island
Snow-Covered Swamp
Watery Grave
Sideboard (15)
Assassin’s Trophy
Force of Negation
Leyline of the Void
Plague Engineer
Spell Pierce
Surgical Extraction
Thoughtseize
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Ninjas has never claimed much Modern playability; my own experiments with Ninja of the Deep Hours revealed ninjutsu’s fatal flaws as a mechanic. Ingenious Infiltrator is a definite upgrade, touting extra toughness and a clause that drastically improves it in multiples. But it seems running discard is the most reliable way to ensure a successful ninjutsu. Additionally, Faerie Seer and Ice-Fang Coatl serve as attractive options to bounce back.

Some builds are opting to take (what I would once have called) full advantage of green by adding Tarmogoyf, a strong follow-up after losing a ninjutsu enabler to removal.

Vampires, by ARTEMESIS (5-0)

Creatures (28)
Cordial Vampire
Indulgent Aristocrat
Stromkirk Condemned
Viscera Seer
Asylum Visitor
Blood Artist
Bloodghast

Sorceries (7)
Call to the Netherworld
Thoughtseize

Enchantments (4)
Call the Bloodline

Lands (81)
Bloodstained Mire
Marsh Flats
Polluted Delta
Swamp
Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
60 Cards
Sideboard (15)
Cry of the Carnarium
Fatal Push
Inquisition of Kozilek
Leyline of the Void
Liliana of the Veil
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Diving off the deep end a little, we have Vampires, appearing in a much different form than we’ve previously seen. This deck functions like Humans, distributing +1/+1 counters over a wide team of one-drop bodies. Asylum Visitor and Call to the Netherworld provide the card advantage missed from lacking Militia Bugler, and Thoughtseize does the heavy lifting on the interactive side.

While Seize is one of Modern’s most historically powerful cards, Humans is capable of pumping out multiple disruptive effects at once, while Vampires must rely more on its speed to get the job done before opponents do. It also doesn’t strike me as particularly fast. There’s plenty more interaction in the sideboard, of course, but I can’t imagine this deck doesn’t lose a lot of game 1s.

Zombies, by FATKIDDESTROYERS (5-0)

Creatures (28)
Carrion Feeder
Cryptbreaker
Gravecrawler
Tidehollow Sculler
Undead Augur
Wayward Servant
Diregraf Colossus

Artifacts (4)
Aether Vial

Sorceries (8)
Thoughtseize
Dark Salvation

Lands (20)
Concealed Courtyard
Prismatic Vista
Silent Clearing
Swamp
Sideboard (15)
Fatal Push
Leyline of Sanctity
Liliana, the Last Hope
Liliana, Untouched by Death
Plague Engineer
Tormod’s Crypt
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Zombies continues our journey into the spookier side of Modern’s upheaval. We’ve seen Zombies here and there in Modern, but always carried by Smuggler’s Copter; this build breaks the mold, and is notable for basically just being an old Standard list.

Making the difference are Carrion Feeder, a card now infamous in Modern for its applications in the Hogaak deck, and Undead Augur, a Horizons notable and pushed bear that converts dead Zombies (itself included) into draw power. This combination lets players turn their on-board Zombies into new cards, an impressive engine with Gravecrawler in the mix. Aether Vial helps make use of the creatures drawn, and Silent Clearing prevents flooding. But I can’t for the life of me figure out that Prismatic Vista….

Soldiers, by DUCKBILLY (16th, Modern Challenge #11892017)

Creatures (26)
Field Marshal
Champion of the Parish
Kytheon, Hero of Akros
Militia Bugler
Soldier of the Pantheon
Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
Thalia, Heretic Cathar
Thalia’s Lieutenant
Tithe Taker

Planeswalkers (2)
Gideon Blackblade

Instants (10)
Lightning Bolt
Lightning Helix
Path to Exile

Lands (22)
Arid Mesa
Cavern of Souls
Inspiring Vantage
Mountain
Mutavault
Plains
Sacred Foundry
Sunbaked Canyon
Sideboard (15)
Brave the Elements
Damping Sphere
Grafdigger’s Cage
Jötun Grunt
Mirran Crusader
Runed Halo
Shatterstorm
Stony Silence
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Soldiers is another long-forgotten tribe of Modern. Despite occasional results, White Weenie-style decks have never really made it here. This deck may prove no different, but it does have some intriguing aspects going for it:

Jokes (and light synergies) aside, I don’t much understand Grunt over the brutally effective Rest in Peace. But perhaps a faster clock is what Soldiers needs versus graveyard decks.

Stuck Together

Showing old tribes love isn’t all Modern Horizons has done for the format. Some new combo decks are also beginning to show up.

Engineering a Win

Goblin Engineer drew the attention of my local playerbase upon spoiling, with some claiming it would spawn its own archetype as Stoneforge Mystic has in Legacy. My own experiments with the card, admittedly brief, using Trash for Treasure, and in a Temur Snow shell, suggested that even when not assembling a combo, Engineer proved a solid value engine. Since then, the card has been welcomed into Modern  alongside Urza, Lord High Artificer. But other pilots continue to tinker with the 1/2.

Modular Engineer, by GOSEIGEN (5-0)

Creatures (16)
Arcbound Ravager
Goblin Engineer
Hangarback Walker
Sai, Master Thopterist
Walking Ballista

Artifacts (22)
Chalice of the Void
Chromatic Star
Engineered Explosives
Ichor Wellspring
Mox Opal
Nihil Spellbomb
Pyrite Spellbomb
Sword of the Meek
Thopter Foundry

Enchantments (1)
Ghirapur Aether Grid

Lands (21)
Blast Zone
Darksteel Citadel
Ghost Quarter
Glimmervoid
Sea Gate Wreckage
Snow-Covered Island
Spire of Industry
Spirebluff Canal
Sideboard (15)
Nihil Spellbomb
Ashiok, Dream Render
Crucible of Worlds
Damping Sphere
Goblin Cratermaker
Grafdigger’s Cage
Mortarpod
Padeem, Consul of Innovation
Plague Engineer
Spellskite
Surgical Extraction
Wear // Tear
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Modular Engineer features the Thopter-Sword combo Goblin is so good at assembling, but falls back on a Plan B cribbed from Hardened Scales. Being able to turn any artifact into Arcbound Ravager puts a lot of pressure on removal-spell decks, especially against the backdrop of the XX-costers, and Ichor Wellspring provides a non-Construct path to value.

Mono-Red Prison, by FADVISOR82 (5-0)

Creatures (12)
Goblin Rabblemaster
Goblin Engineer
Simian Spirit Guide

Planeswalkers (6)
Karn, the Great Creator
Chandra, Torch of Defiance

Sorceries (2)
Slagstorm

Instants (4)
Abrade

Artifacts (11)
Chalice of the Void
Ensnaring Bridge
Ichor Wellspring
Liquimetal Coating
Trinisphere

Enchantments (4)
Blood Moon

Lands (21)
Darksteel Citadel
Gemstone Caverns
13 Mountain
Ramunap Ruins
Sideboard (15)
Chalice of the Void
Chandra, Torch of Defiance
Ensnaring Bridge
Liquimetal Coating
Anger of the Gods
Dragon’s Claw
Eidolon of the Great Revel
Grafdigger’s Cage
Mycosynth Lattice
Sorcerous Spyglass
Tormod’s Crypt
Torpor Orb
Walking Ballista
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Mono-Red Prison has been one of Modern’s go-to stompy decks for a while now. It usually runs Legion Warboss as additional copies of Goblin Rabblemaster, but FADVISOR82 opted for Goblin Engineer instead.

Engineer has some quirky uses in this deck: it grinds out value with Ichor Wellspring; locates Liquimetal Coating for Karn shenanigans or Trinisphere in its right matchups; monetizes spare copies of Chalice of the Void and Ensnaring Bridge, as well as bringing back the latter if opponents destroy it; and helps tutor Karn bullets in post-board games. Its inclusion over Warboss makes Mono-Red less of a one-trick pony, giving the deck some added utility and resilience in the face of disruption at the cost of a more reliable stompy plan of lock-piece-into-pressure.

The More, the Merrier

60 cards? I don’t think so! ELEVINESS took the internet by storm with their Battle of Wits deck, and later published the tournament report from an 11th-place Modern Challenge finish.

Battle of Wits, by ELEVINESS (11th, Modern Challenge #11892017)

Creatures (44)
Birds of Paradise
Sylvan Caryatid
Sakura-Tribe Elder
Wall of Roots
Snapcaster Mage
Eternal Witness
Knight of Autumn
Sin Collector
Restoration Angel
Arc-Slogger
Caldera Hellion
Thragtusk
Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker
Ramunap Excavator
Panglacial Wurm
Platinum Emperion
Terastodon
Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite
Iona, Shield of Emeria

Sorceries (71)
Inquisition of Kozilek
Thoughtseize
Traverse the Ulvenwald
Glittering Wish
Sylvan Scrying
Farseek
Search for Tomorrow
Cultivate
Dreadbore
Madcap Experiment
Scapeshift
Maelstrom Pulse
Unmoored Ego
Slaughter Games
Supply // Demand
Wargate
Bring to Light
Timely Reinforcements
Anger of the Gods
Crumble to Dust
Damnation
Supreme Verdict
Unburial Rites

Instants (44)
Fatal Push
Abrupt Decay
Assassin’s Trophy
Chord of Calling
Growth Spiral
Izzet Charm
Remand
Eladamri’s Call
Pulse of Murasa
Gifts Ungiven
Summoner’s Pact
Pact of Negation
Noxious Revival

Enchantments (7)
Battle of Wits
Rest in Peace
Detention Sphere
Worship

Lands (103)
Arid Mesa
Bloodstained Mire
Flooded Strand
Windswept Heath
Wooded Foothills
Verdant Catacombs
Polluted Delta
Misty Rainforest
Marsh Flats
Steam Vents
Stomping Ground
Breeding Pool
Sacred Foundry
Blood Crypt
Watery Grave
Overgrown Tomb
Temple Garden
Hallowed Fountain
Godless Shrine
City of Brass
Mana Confluence
Evolving Wilds
Field of Ruin
Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle
Tolaria West
Khalni Garden
Blighted Woodland
Dryad Arbor
Tectonic Edge
Ghost Quarter
Blast Zone
Boseiju, Who Shelters All
Forest
Island
Plains
Mountain
Swamp
Sideboard (14)
Knight of Autumn
Bring to Light
Detention Sphere
Slaughter Games
Supreme Verdict
Unmoored Ego
Casualties of War
Dark Heart of the Wood
Firespout
Fracturing Gust
Fulminator Mage
Heroes’ Reunion
Izzet Staticaster
Safewright Quest
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The deck is split between enablers/mana, tutors/bullets, goodstuff value components, and win buttons, including its namesake enchantment. Cutest of all, “the more, the merrier” doesn’t extend to the sideboard, which features just 14 cards.

Refined as it looks all neat and parsed, Battle is far from optimized. ELEVINESS has expressed interest in trying Karn, the Great Creator, which I agree would be an excellent four-of in this deck; Teferi, Time Raveler is also a solid Glittering Wish target, and Prismatic Vista would apparently make the cut if not for its high price online. Funniest of all, the pilot never once cast Battle of Wits during the tournament, and went on to suggest the deck may be better off without it. Omitting Battle might enable cutting the least effective plans from the list to tighten things up, and subsequently allow for different builds depending on which engines best punish an existing metagame.

Appetite for Brews

This week’s dump was packed with Modern first-timers, but we’ve only just scratched the surface of the impact Horizons is having on the format. Join me next week for Part 2 of the June Brew Report.

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